French President Emmanuel Macron on Monday enjoyed a boat ride with Prime Minister Narendra Modi on the Ganga with a glimpse of the rich cultural heritage of the temple city.
Macron, who had spent time at the Taj Mahal with his wife Brigitte on Sunday, was given a traditional welcome with showering of flower petals, a Shehnai recital and chanting of mantras before he took a decked-up boat which ferried him, Modi and Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath between Assi and Dashwamedh ghats.
People and school-leaders gathered in large numbers along the ghats waving flags of India and France while artistes enacted scenes from Ramleela and the episode of first sermon by Lord Buddha to his five disciples.
Right from the open auditorium of the Deen Dayal Upadhyaya Trade Facilitation Centre to the ghats, artistes put up an impressive show before Macron and Modi who walked hand in hand.
After reaching the DDU centre from the LBS International Airport, Macron visited the handloom and handicraft exhibition at the textile museum and enjoyed ‘Chitrakoot’, a play based on Hindu scripture Ramcharitmanas which was staged in the open auditorium. It showcased the life of Lord Ram during his 14-year exile.
Arriving to the welcome tune of a ‘shehnai’ at the Deendayal Hastkala Sankul in Badalalpur, the French president evinced a keen interest in handicrafts and heritage of the culturally-rich the city.
Taking a round of the sankul, which was inaugurated last year and is considered a one-stop destination of the handicrafts of the area, he was given a live demonstration of the craftsmanship which has earned the city global recognition.
Accompanied by Modi who explained to his guest the various craft forms, he was also shown as to how the world-renowned Banarsi sarees were weaved.
The carpets of Bhadohi, which form another major industry of the region, also caught the interest the visiting dignitary. The two leaders also sat down briefly for a cultural troupe’s display before leaving for their next destination.
Couplets of the Ramcharitmanas were recited and Ramlila was staged at Tulsi Ghat. The Ram rajyabhishek (anointment of Lord Ram) was performed by traditional artistes under the guidance of chief priest of Sankatmochan Temple, Vishwambhar Nath Mishra.
On reaching Assi Ghat, Macron was given a traditional welcome with showering of petals, a shehnai recital and chanting of ‘Shukla Yajurveda’ mantras. He was shown the ‘Pushpak Viman’ as sounds of ‘shankh’ (conch shell) and ‘damru’ (pellet drum), and chants of ‘Har Har Mahadev’ reverberated through the air.
After boarding ‘Bajra’ boat for a 20-minute ride with the PM, Macron watched the episodes of Ramleela and recital of Ramcharitmanas by artistes while passing through Tulsi Ghat. At Prabhu and Chetsingh ghats, the episode of the first sermon by Lord Buddha to his five disciples was enacted.
Naga Sadhus with ‘Bhasmi Shringar’ were present at Akhada Sri Niranjini Ghat. Recital of Sant Kabir’s poetries were done at Mansarovar Ghat and Banaras Gharanas’ Kathak and classical instrumental music were performed at Pandey and Chausatti ghats.
The folk music and dance performances were appreciated by Macron before the end of his boat ride at Dashaswamedh Ghat.
A 50-feet high cutout of Modi and Macron by local artists was put up at the Tulsi Ghat and posters dotted the city showing the two leaders waving, with Eiffel Tower and Varanasi ghat in the background. They carried the tagline ‘welcome to the cultural capital of India’.
Paintings of Ganga ghats on the stairs leading to them were put up along with massive ‘alpanas’ (colourful motifs) using flowers and colours, prepared by the students of Kashi Vidyapeeth. Through the ‘alpanas’, an effort was made to project symbols of development works and the friendship between two countries.
Between Assi ghat and Dashwamedh ghat where the boat ride culminated, cultural troupes showcased glimpses of Varanasi’s cultural heritage.
A group of Buddhist monks offered prayers at Prabhu ghat and sadhus gave discourses at Chet Singh ghat while a group of seers chanted mantras at Niranjan ghat.